Monday, March 9, 2009
THE FESTIVAL, CHELTENHAM
RACENEWS RACECOURSE SERVICE
MONDAY, MARCH 9, 2009
WEDNESDAY DECLARED RUNNERS
3.20pm £320,000 SEASONS HOLIDAYS QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE, 2m, CHELTENHAM, WEDNESDAY, 11/03/2009
No Form Horse Age/Weight Owner Trainer Jockey
1) -1005 Ashley Brook (IRE) 11-11-10 Elizabeth Ellis Kevin Bishop Richard Johnson
2) 21-1F Big Zeb (IRE) 8-11-10 Patrick Joseph Redmond Colm Murphy IRE Robert Thornton
3) 21/14 Briareus (GB) 9-11-10 Miss E J Lambourne Andrew Balding Tony McCoy
4) 2-264 Mahogany Blaze (FR) 7-11-10 Lorna Berryman Nigel Twiston-Davies Paddy Brennan
5) 1-133 Marodima (FR) 6-11-10 Mark & Lavinia Sherwood Rebecca Curtis Nick Scholfield
6) 12-11 Master Minded (FR) 6-11-10 Clive D Smith Paul Nicholls Ruby Walsh
7) 0-404 Newmill (IRE) 11-11-10 Mary T Hayes John Murphy IRE Robbie Power
8) 1-122 Petit Robin (FR) 6-11-10 Mr & Mrs John Poynton Nicky Henderson Barry Geraghty
9) -1051 Santa's Son (IRE) 9-11-10 (TS) Andrea & Graham Wylie Howard Johnson Denis O'Regan
10) U4213 Scotsirish (IRE) 8-11-10 Double R Stables LLP Syndicate Willie Mullins IRE Paul Townend
11) -1223 Twist Magic (FR) 7-11-10 (TS) Barry Fulton, Tony Hayward, Michael Lynch Paul Nicholls Sam Thomas
12) /1F3/ Well Chief (GER) 10-11-10 David Johnson David Pipe Timmy Murphy
12 declared runners
There are two winners of the race running again - Master Minded, the hot ante-post favourite who was successful last year, and Newmill, the 2006 victor.
This will be the biggest field since Newmill won from 11 opponents and there were also 12 runners in 2002 when Flagship Uberalles triumphed. The biggest-ever field for the Queen Mother Champion Chase was 13 in 1999.
GOING UPDATE AT 4PM
After a dry day, the official going ahead of the 2009 Cheltenham Festival is:
Old Course (Tuesday and Wednesday): Good to Soft
New Course (Thursday and Friday): Good to Soft
Cross-Country Course (Tuesday only): Good to Soft, Soft in places
The GoingStick readings have changed since this morning to:
Cheltenham’s clerk of the course Simon Claisse said: “The possible rain during the day today hasn’t arrived but we are still expecting five to six millimetres to fall overnight.”
MURPHY ON SKY-WATCH FOR INCA
In Colm Murphy’s dream world, it would rain all night tonight. Even if that doesn’t happen, every little drop will help the Wexford handler. “They say there’s some rain forecast and it certainly won’t do us any harm,” said Murphy, who is attempting to win a second Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle with the redoubtable Brave Inca.
Brave Inca, who missed all of last season with a leg injury, proved in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in January that he is still a force to be reckoned with at the highest level. That day Noel Meade’s Muirhead, five years his junior, just couldn’t match the dogged commitment of the 11-year-old, who won by three-quarters of a length. Muirhead also goes in the Champion Hurdle.
“Not too many 11-year-olds have won [the Champion Hurdle], but he’s got a real chance. He’s fit and he’s well,” he said, today at Cheltenham. In fact only two 11-year-olds have won the flagship hurdle race: Sea Pigeon, who in 1981 won the second of his two titles at 11; and Hattons Grace, who in 1951 won his third successive title at the same age.
In Brave Inca’s favour is his exceptional record at the Cheltenham Festival. On his first visit in 2004, he won the Supreme Novices, Hurdle, the opening event of The Festival. In three subsequent visits, he has finished third, first and second in the Champion Hurdle.
“I think he knows where he is and he likes it here,” said Murphy, leading his stable star back from a walk on the course this morning. The clouds were scudding overhead and Murphy had a twinkle in his eye.
Willie Mullins is not unaccustomed to success at the Cheltenham Festival; the trainer currently stands fifth in the list of successful Irish trainers with 12 Festival winners. But the County Carlow handler has been adamant for some time, that his team for this year’s Festival is his strongest yet.
“It’s without a doubt the best team I’ve ever had and probably ever will have. This year we’ve been winning Grade 1 races since November,” he said.
Mullins, who last season finally wrested the Irish trainer’s title from the Noel Meade’s vice-like grip, has arrived at The Festival with a team of 22, and took a string of 16 on to the course this morning.
Although he did not walk the course proper, Mullins felt sure that the ground was “probably yielding now, but drying out all the time. It’s getting towards good ground,” he felt.
The Mullins’ challenge will start in The Festival opener, the williamhill.com Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, in which he runs Kempes and the likely favourite, Cousin Vinny, winner of last year’s Weatherbys Champion Bumper, who will be ridden by his son Patrick.
Mullins has twice previously won the Supreme Novices - with Tourist Attraction in 1995 and Ebaziyan in 2007 - but not everything has gone to plan so far this year.
“Cousin Vinny maybe didn't travel over quite as well as I might have expected, or hoped. Sometimes this happens when horses come back for a second year. He is settling down now,” said the trainer.
Mullins will also want the rain to come: “I hope the rain that is forecast comes overnight - just to take the speed out of the race.”
CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS
The winner of Tuesday’s Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle can confidently wear the mantle of the champion of champions. For the first time in the history of the race, four former champions (who between them have won the last five editions) will be at the starting gate for the world’s premier hurdle race.
Katchit, last year’s winner, Sublimity (2007), Brave Inca (2006), and Hardy Eustace, (2004 and 2005), are already on the honours’ board.
Should they be joined by a new champion tomorrow, it would be only the second time in the race’s history that five champions have come out of a single race.
In 1964, when Magic Court was the champion, former champions Another Flash (1960) and Winning Fair (1963) were behind him, as well as future champions Kirriemuir (1965) and Salmon Spray (1966).
Should the winner tomorrow be Hardy Eustace again, he will be the sixth horse to notch up a three-timer - after Istabraq, See You Then, Persian War, Sir Ken and Hatton’s Grace - but the first not do it in sequence.
Hardy Eustace would also become the first 12-year-old to claim the top prize in the 82-year history of the race. His trainer Dessie Hughes already occupies an auspicious place in the statistical hierarchy being one of only four people - Fred Winter, Fred Rimell and Gerry Wilson are the others - to have ridden and trained a Champion Hurdle winner. Hughes rode Monksfield to victory in 1979.
For old articles (from 1st March 2000) go to the Newslink